The ultimate goal is to outgrow bad habits, not break them — Lionesses of Africa

by Lori Milner

A bad habit is a pattern of behaviour that sabotages you somehow. The language associated with habit change is that you want to start a good habit and break a bad one. Breaking a habit assumes that the problem is with the habit, but really, it’s about your beliefs, triggers and actions about what this habit will give you.

The author of Better than Before, Gretchen Rubin, has the ultimate solution – to outgrow a bad habit. When you outgrow a bad habit, it means you have evolved and grown as a person. You can now see that the behaviour sabotages your current goals and no longer belongs in your life. How do you usually approach a tangled cable or necklace? You don’t break it, but you unravel each knot carefully until you have successfully disentangled it.

In the same way, this is how you need to think about your bad habits. Imagine you want to stop drinking wine during the week because it interferes with your health goals.

Here are seven ways to untangle this habit (of course, insert the habit you would like to stop doing if this does not apply to you):

Identify the trigger

The starting point of dissecting a bad habit is identifying your trigger. What is the prompt that is triggering you to do the activity? It could be a time of day, a location, a situation or an emotion. With the example of drinking wine, could it be because it’s 5 pm, when you arrive at your brother’s house or because you are feeling very upset or stressed? It may be a combination, but one trigger catapults you into action. Can you do a habit audit over the next week to become aware of what triggers you? This behaviour may be so ingrained into your daily routine that it is no longer a decision but a habit. You do it without consciously thinking about it.

Once you can identify the starting point, you can prevent the rest of the domino effect.

 Recognise the secondary gain

A secondary gain is any behaviour you want to stop doing that has a positive intent. You want to stop wine, but it makes you feel calm and gives you a sense of control over your world. Although the intent to drink is positive, it is a false sense of control and sabotages your health goals by affecting your sleep and making it harder to wake up to exercise. Identify the behaviour you want to stop and get curious. Ask yourself – what is making this hard to do? What is the obstacle? Perhaps you procrastinate on doing an important presentation. The secondary gain is protecting you from the fear of being judged or not being perfect when you try to tackle the task. It doesn’t have to make logical sense; this is why habits are such an intricate topic. Once you have identified the secondary gain, ask yourself: How would accomplishing this goal meet my needs in a healthier and more empowered way? When you can place your habit under a microscope and get clarity on why you keep it around, you will begin to see the secondary gain for what it is – a false sense of comfort and control.

Find a replacement

You cannot stop a behaviour without replacing it with something else. If you want to stop wine, can you replace it with herbal tea? Not just any tea, go and splurge on some fancy teas and a new teapot. Create a decadent ritual for yourself that you can indulge in by savouring the brewing process. You can even pair the process of drinking tea with watching a TED talk or reading an inspiring book. You will begin to look forward to this new habit rather than feel like a victim who has lost something.

Manage your environment

Habits are not about motivation but design. How can you manage your environment to help you untangle the knots? Can you remove all wine in the house or lock it away in a room until it’s the weekend? Perhaps you need to put a particular food in an inconvenient place, so it deters you from reaching for it? Can you manage the environment of distraction by closing your Outlook and social media feeds when you work? Sometimes you need to manage your digital environment to progress your goals. If you tend to order wine online, delete the app. Perhaps you need to delete social media or shopping apps on your phone if you tend to procrastinate by scrolling for hours? You can also design your environment to create better habits by leaving a jug of water on your desk, replacing a biscuit bowl for apples or leaving a book on your bed? The more you can remind yourself of what habits you want to create, the easier it is to shift your behaviour to make more empowering choices.

Create accountability

It’s human nature that we often do better when we know people are watching. Use the power of accountability to keep you focused on this new change. Tell your family and friends that you no longer drink in the week and ask them to keep you on track. If you find yourself reaching for a glass of wine, you will be out of integrity. It also helps in social settings where you feel compelled to drink to avoid being the odd one out. The more you can assert your choice with confidence; the more people will respect your decision. Marshall Goldsmith, the author of Triggers, suggests the power of self-accountability to drive you in the direction of better decisions. He recommends keeping a journal with accountability questions you need to answer each evening by giving yourself a score out of 10.

Here are some examples:

·      Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?

·      Did I do my best to find meaning today?

·      Did I do my best to be happy today?

·      Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?

·      Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

·      Did I do my best to have a healthy diet? 

Eventually, you will detest answering anything less than a seven and make sure you take actions that catapult you to a 10.

Celebrate your wins

Every time you choose your cup of tea over the wine, celebrate yourself. Acknowledge that you interrupted your pattern and made the hard choice.

Celebration could be patting yourself on the back, doing the floss dance or imagining confetti falling from the ceiling. Have fun with this but make sure you recognise your progress. It is more than making yourself feel good but acknowledging that you are shifting and letting go of behaviours that no longer serve you. You have to internalise who you are becoming on the journey, so it is part of who you are when you reach your goal. The lack of recognition of your achievements is why imposter syndrome is rampant. If you disregard every milestone along the way, you feel like everyone will figure out you know nothing when you finally attain your career goal.

Celebration allows you to develop the ultimate habit – self-praise. When you can accept praise from yourself, it is easier to accept it from others. Courage supersedes confidence; it recognises your progress and growth that gives you the confidence to keep going and tackle larger goals in the future.

Embrace your new identity

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, says that true behaviour change is identity change. You need to let go of the version of yourself that no longer serves you. Have compassion for your former self. Rather than resent them, thank your former self because this habit served a purpose and made sense at that stage of your life. Now that you are wiser and more experienced, you can see that this pattern sabotages your new goals. You made this choice in a different life stage and with different circumstances. Can you have compassion for your former self’s choices and step into your new identity? Decide who you want to be and begin to act in alignment. The process of creating and untangling habits is the process of becoming yourself. Every time you choose the tea, it reinforces your identity as a strong, healthy, more evolved person. You no longer need to identify as a stressed person but someone who makes decisions in their own best interest because you are worth it.

Final thoughts

One of my favourite quotes is from entrepreneur Derek Sivers, which sums up habits so perfectly:

“If [more] information were the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”

There is always a gap between knowing what you should do and making the right decision in the moment. Mastering your habits is personal mastery – understanding your goals, thoughts, beliefs and patterns. In other words, why do you do what you do? When you begin to see your habits as a science lab, you can experiment with non-attachment. Like the necklace, you have to work through it slowly. If you get impatient, you can break it.

Habits operate on the same principle; you need to work through this change with patience and self-compassion. It may take longer than you want, and you will make mistakes now and then. Rather than give up completely, see your day in micro-choices and make sure the next choice is a better one.

Use this checklist to help you outgrow the habits that no longer belong in your life:

·      Identify the trigger.

·      Recognise the secondary gain.

·      Find a replacement.

·      Manage your environment.

·      Create accountability.

·      Celebrate your wins.

·      Embrace your new identity.

Here’s to becoming the best version of yourself

Warm wishes


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Family structures in business — Lionesses of Africa

by Tsitsi Mutendi

This week, we continue on our journey with Ms. Olivia Simbajena. Ms. Simbajena is a businesswoman whose business falls under the category of SME and MME. Hers also falls under the category of Family Business. As we have defined before, a Family Business is a business started by an individual for the benefit of his or her family and is then run by the individual to serve the interests of their communities as well as those of their family. The Family Business’s main characteristics is that a family owns the majority shareholding of the business. However, from the characters and their situations, although fictional, we are starting to see that there are dynamic intricacies that affect Family Businesses. Laying down a foundation by introducing our fictional business owners will help to establish context when we go in-depth and unpack more problems and solutions for Family Businesses.

In our last article, we met our trader turned enterprise builder, Ms. Simbajena. Ms. Simbajena is one of the powerhouses in the SME and MME sector. Ms. Simbajena is a Trader who managed to open a store, which then became a chain of stores and diversified into manufacturing. According to research done by the UN and World Bank, women play a crucial role in trade in Africa and will be essential to Africa’s success in exploiting its trade potential. Daily, millions of women in Africa are engaged in one form of trade or another, either within their countries or across national borders. They buy and sell everything, from agricultural produce to manufactured products. It is mostly women who conduct cross-border trade, delivering goods and services, reports the World Bank. They also run the majority of agricultural small landholdings. Indeed, women traders’ contribution to national economies has become essential in boosting trade in Africa. It is well known that most women in Africa start a business out of necessity, and that necessity is to feed their family. Women Business owners are the majority of many Family Business Owners. The biggest obstacle is that they do not see their business as a business that can become bigger than just feeding their family, even though they contribute to the eco-system of many economies in a considerable way.

Ms. Olivia Simbajena has thrived in her business life. She has managed to move from barely surviving to a thriving well-known businesswoman. In the meantime, her personal life has also flourished. Her daughter is doing exceptionally well in school, and Ms. Simbajena has found love, gotten married, and has three sons. The marriage is blissful at the beginning. Her husband, Tonderai, helps her with her business by giving her advice and giving her tips on financial literacy. When they marry, he works in the bank as a bank manager. And after a few years, he decides to join his wife as an entrepreneur and opens a car dealership. Tonderai is now only helpful where he can be, but he is busy in his own business and is now treating her business as a hobby. Although it is evident on the financial sheets that her business is visibly bringing in more money, he owes her a lot of money for a haphazard investment she made to “support his business.” After a few years, Tonderai starts getting frustrated with his lack of success in business. He also starts seeing Ms. Simbajena’s daughter as a threat to himself and his sons and is now insisting that her daughter go to boarding school or stay with Ms. Simbajena’s mother. He only wants “His” children in “his” home. Although this is the home she built before she was married. This starts causing conflict within the marital home. Ms. Simbajena has been living with her mother. The thought of moving her mother and daughter out of their home is distressing because her mother is getting frail, and she is now insisting on staying in her rural home.

Family Businesses are wrought with many dynamics and unforeseen circumstances that can spillover from family to business and vice versa. All founders of family businesses should be prudent when structuring their personal relationships and their business relationships. Primarily because an upset in one or the other can leave a family financially stranded and business less or family rich and business poor.

Structuring a family and business relationship is very hard. Especially in the dynamics of the traditional African family structure. It is complex, and some of these complexities and nuances must be considered when building and structuring the family business structure as much as its governance. So the most important place to start would be the family structure and the family governance, and it’s relation to the business. Then from that vantage point, a clear business family relationship can be structured. Each case is unique in context and relationship and must be handled as such. It is crucial for a family business to engage a professional family business advisor to assist in those processes as it can be a lengthy process that needs objectivity and an outsider to manage the complexity of the family dynamic.

In this case, it would be necessary for Ms. Simbajena to have a family meeting with interested parties and create a family council. It would have been better if some structuring had been done before her marriage. Because the marriage itself brings into the mix its own complexities in terms of ownership and business shareholding. A prenuptial agreement would have been ideal in such a situation. As well as communication as to shareholding in the business. Who gets shares and when and why? Does her husband get shares on marriage? Do only their children get shares? What percentage of shares does Ms. Simbajena hold, and how many will she give to whom? Are there other partners in the business? Does Tonderai have the option to buy-in and legitimately own shares? Ownership must be clear as well as who will have what roles in the business. Tonderai being the head of his home, does not equate to him being the head of the Family Business that Ms. Simbajena built, and it does not equate to him having any authority in the operations of the business. As her spouse, he, however, does get benefits from the business, and if he is made a shareholder, he does have a limited say in what occurs at the business of the structure of his shareholding permits this.

This and a myriad of other issues can only be established when there is appropriate structuring in the family and the business relationship and governance structures. We will talk further on Family Business and Governance next week.

Tsitsi Mutendi is a Succession and Estate Planning Expert specializing in SME, MME, and Family Business Services. She writes in her Personal and Professional Capacity. Comments and views: or

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Inside Customer Care — Lionesses of Africa

by Helena Naitsuwe Amadhila

Our businesses exist to serve customers. As entrepreneurs, we should know our customers inside out to be able to serve them better, and to meet their diverse and unlimited needs. Customers are unique people and this calls for entrepreneurs to care for their customers in a unique and individualized manner. This will ensure provision of tailor-made services and products to customers which will results in customer satisfaction and retention. These customers could also share the exciting customer care received and recommend the business to other people and as a result, there will be increase in customer base. Entrepreneurs should also know that customer care requires patience, discipline and the ability to learn, adapt, adopt, adjust and implement.

Patience means humbling yourself as an entrepreneur to accommodate and attend to customers questions and concerns in a professional and acceptable manner.

Discipline implies the application of appropriate rules and regulations as crafted by various regulating bodies in various business sectors.

Learning is an unending process. Entrepreneurs should keep on learning to gain the necessary knowledge and skills in order to understand their customers and be able to assist them professionally.

Entrepreneurs should be able to adapt to new, suitable and purposeful ways and methods of meeting their customer needs.

Adoption of proper and new ways of customer care approaches is crucial for business to succeed. The business environment is evolving and as such requires entrepreneurs to continuously adopt testable approached to ensure customer care satisfaction and happiness.

Adjustment of one’s methods, approaches and modus operandi are important for customer care to be realized and revolutionized. This modification will ensure achievement of desired results both for the and the customers at large.

Finally, whatever approach, method, rules and regulations applied in customer care, it is vital that they are made use of through implementation. It will not serve any purpose if one is patient, discipline, learn, adapt, adopt and adjust but did not implement all the valuable lessons learned to improve and offer world class customer care for maximum benefits of the business. In conclusion, it should be noted that proper customer care is inseparable from the success of the business from the formation stage to growth, scaling and maturity. Entrepreneurs should aim to provide up-to-date customer care for business performance.

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how to thrive as an introvert entrepreneur by Brigitte van Tuijl  — Lionesses of Africa

Book Review

For all those naturally introverted women entrepreneurs who have been told to change in order to find success, Brigitte van Tuijl’s book, ‘The Happy Hermit: How to thrive as an introvert entrepreneur’ could be just the counterpoint needed. She believes that you should never have to change who you are just to grow a successful business, in fact just the opposite is true. 

Author and business coach, Brigitte van Tuijl, says you should never have to change who you are to grow your business, and that’s particularly the case for introverts. In her new book, The Happy Hermit: How to thrive as an introvert entrepreneur, she shares her experiences of seeing at first-hand how introverts are always communicated to, both implicitly or explicitly. They are told that if they really seek success, they should try to be more extroverted. They are encouraged not be so shy, to speak up more, to make themselves more visible. They are constantly told how they should change, especially when it comes to growing their businesses. But Brigitte believes that it should never be the case that you have to change yourself to live your dreams and build a successful business. In fact, she says the more you are true to yourself and your introverted ways, the easier it is to create a business you adore.

Author Quotes

In this book, I show you how I turned myself from a crappy hermit, who never had enough alone time, to a happy hermit, who has all the freedom and space she wants.

You’ll discover how you, too, can build a business that allows you the freedom you desire without changing who you are or doing things you hate!

I believe that the more you are true to yourself and your true nature, the better you feel and the more successful you are. Whatever success means to you.

About the author

Brigitte van Tuijl is a writer and master coach for women entrepreneurs. In the past two decades she’s helped thousands of women get clear on their true dream and make it real. Her clients have launched businesses globally, published their first books, doubled their incomes, and realized their most important goals and desires. The Happy Hermit is Brigitte’s seventh book. She lives in The Netherlands with her man Arjen, and says she hates hobbies and loves people—in moderation.

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The impact of bias in women’s lives — Lionesses of Africa

by Lionesses of Africa Operations Department

“The pen has been in their hands…” – Jane Austen.

We have recently been drawn to the brilliant book by the award-winning author, Caroline Criado Perez, entitled INVISIBLE WOMEN: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men’, ‘IW’ (here). We assumed it would contain many of the statistics we have seen in the world of finance (such as only 2% of VC funding going to US Start ups in 2021 and 82% to all-male founding teams here and not much better in Africa where there is a far greater ratio of women entrepreneurs to male). Therefore, we were pleasantly surprised to note that this book deals very much with the mundane, our day-to-day lives and how bias, indeed any bias (unconscious or otherwise), makes a  huge difference in the long run (as any Casino knows too well). However, as we shall show through her investigations and other studies, this is far from mundane, instead deadly serious and is something we all must take very seriously indeed for our businesses and most importantly, our employees.

Bias that, for example, creates the situation whereby “…women from lower socio-economic backgrounds are 25% more likely to suffer a heart attack than men in the same income bracket.” Or “…in 2016 the British Medical Journal reported that young women were almost twice as likely as men to die in hospital.” See what we mean by this being ‘far from mundane’?

And as Perez continues to show, processes that should be gender-neutral are anything but, such as:

  • letters of recommendation within a hiring process and strengthens the ‘glass ceiling’ – confirmed by MIT finding that women were disadvantaged by ‘usual departmental hiring processes’, and that ‘exceptional women candidates might very well not be found by conventional departmental search committee methods

  • teaching evaluations at Universities that leave women behind.

  • Computer programming, which was originally done by women (yes!) (see the book ‘Hidden Figures’ about the inspirational women of Nasa here that was then turned into a wonderful film), a very female role everywhere as shown in an article in Cosmopolitan in the 1960’s, here.

Then, for all the talk that STEM subjects are not attractive for women, instead it is shown that “female students perform better in science when the images in their textbooks include female scientists.” Not a surprise, we all need role models – see for yourself and take a moment to search for female images within our childrens’ science book – they are just not there, (ok perhaps one photo of Marie Curie). Role models being absolutely essential, yet a tiny fraction of banknotes and stamps across the globe have famous women on them. If you ignore the recently departed Queen Elizabeth II who had an advantage as Head of State and Head of the Commonwealth, the number of female role-models shown can be counted on one hand.

Women also have extra concerns such as ‘trip-chaining’. Trip-chaining is where one has one or more stops in a round trip, so drop off kids at school – go to work – take an elderly relative to the doctor – visit the supermarket – then head for home….and these are not insignificant differences – “…three times more likely than men to take a child to school and 25% more likely to trip-chain” in Europe. In Africa? No surprise, sadly no data. Given women have greater ‘non-work’ work, or responsibilities, so they are also far more likely to use public transport, something that when times are tough, and budgets are tight, Governments tend to start to cut.

The problem is that all of this pushes up the amount of hours a woman works each week and when studies in the West show that one should not work more than 40 hours a week – again this is assuming that all this extra work that women do, does not count, they regularly work over 40 hours a week.

“…such hours for female workers led to consistent and ‘alarming increases’ in life-threatening diseases, including heart disease and cancer. Women’s risk of developing these diseases started to rise when they worked more than forty hours per week. If they worked for an average of sixty hours per week for over thirty years, their risk of developing one of these diseases tripled…women (in particular women under fifty-five) [also] have worse outcomes than men following heart surgery.” But why is this? One reason is that women following surgery “…tend to go right back into their caregiver roles, while men were more likely to have someone to look after them…[indeed] single women recovered better from heart attacks than married women – particularly when put alongside a University of Michigan study which found that husbands create an extra seven hours of housework a week for women [Ok, tell us something we don’t know! – Ed.].

In a very interesting Marie Claire article (here) titled: “Women Are Dying Because Doctors Treat Us Like Men” they show clearly the extra dangers encountered by women every time they go to hospital, purely because “…physicians have…assumed they can diagnose and treat both genders the same way…In fact, a 2000 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that women are seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and discharged mid-heart-attack. Most often, that’s because doctors fail to recognize women’s symptoms, which can differ widely from men’s.” – which of course are the symptoms most discussed, indeed, the only one’s discussed until recently, in medical text books – the classic chest pain we all know about – “…instead, 71 percent of women have flu-like symptoms,” ahead of a heart attack!

There are also many diseases and conditions that are alarmingly more prevalent among women, and medical science has not discovered why. Women are up to four times more likely to have migraines and chronic fatigue, three times more likely to be diagnosed with autoimmune disorders, and twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and depression. Another puzzling finding: Nonsmoking women are three times more likely to get lung cancer than nonsmoking men…” …we could go on, but it is just too depressing.

So we have the gender bias against, that stops career progression or even getting the job in the first place; then lower pay and less chance of promotion if we get the job; being pushed out of roles that traditionally were female run, such as computer programming; extra housework; the extra dropping off of kids; the extra looking after an elderly relative, and now increased illness and potential for death, and we have not even touched on the low investigation and research into the Menstruation cycle and Menopause (see what happens when 50% of the population struggle to rise up in University research?!).

So how do we do progress?

Apart from being stronger at the doctor’s surgery when they tell us just to go home and “it’ll pass”, it seems mostly by taking more part-time work and that of course is paid less, generally does not have flexible hours and results in women working below their skill level.

…and one wonders why only 8% of the USA Fortune 500 CEO’s are women.

All of this leads to our great fear as we previously wrote (here), that this is simply going to get worse as these biases, unconscious or otherwise, are fed into the “algorithm-driven [process, which] is set to get worse, because there is every reason to suspect that this bias is being unwittingly hardwired into the very code to which we’re outsourcing our decision-making.” I.W.

How does that impact us as we run our businesses (and note, we are not here discussing the huge amount of bootstrapping our incredible membership have had to endure – that for a later article!)?

One of the well-known aspects of female-run businesses (apart from the fact they are better investment bets than their male run counterparts, yet constantly miss out on funding, see here – DOH! This is such a difficult subject to avoid as you can tell!), is that along with being large supporters of their local communities, these tend to also employ far more women in their teams. Possibly this is to do with the fact that as we saw from our great Lioness Data Division and their brilliant ‘South African Women Entrepreneurs Job Creators Survey Report’ here, so many Lionesses set up a business to create a job for themselves and so know from experience just how difficult it is to find a job as a woman – yet know just how damn good they are!

With the world in a sorry place currently. War in Europe impacting food and fuel costs, droughts, floods and famine becoming seasonal in various parts of Africa. With schooling for our children becoming ever more expensive in books and clothing. With unregulated Lenders feeding on so many. With many women having that nagging feeling that something is not quite right with their bodies, yet cannot persuade their Doctor that it needs deeper investigation – which in turn means far more trips to the Doctor, possibly with second opinions –  so our employees are facing a seemingly never ending amount of worries that are just growing and growing.

Is it therefore any wonder that ‘Impostors Syndrome’ is such a female centric issue? “It is crucial to remember that women are not born feeling less-than. But if you are continually treated as though you are, you eventually internalise it. And this is not merely a synonym for low confidence – impostor syndrome is the logical outcome of a world that was never designed for women to be successful.” (Guardian newspaper here).

Imposter syndrome can inhibit productivity and seriously limit an individual’s career progression. Self-doubt can also hold a highly-qualified person back from taking the chances that propel them forward,”  according to Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at the University of Manchester’s business school (here).

So what can we do?

Being aware of all of these extra issues, worries and concerns is certainly a start. Make your work place a fun place to be (none of us know what is going on outside of work). If an employee needs to leave early, see if there is some way you can find out why so that you can possibly assist. Is it a Doctor’s visit? Is it a child or elderly relative who is sick?

Think of extra help for your employees… Speak to the other businesses in the area. If this is an industrial zone, perhaps club together for a local kindergarten in one of the local warehouses. Check the bus routes to and from your factory, perhaps even look to a shared company minivan – chance for ‘trip-chaining’? How about finding a female Doctor that will take on your employees? These are all far more valuable initial steps than a company ‘team-building’ exercise which some of your employees always seem to miss (because of their extra home responsibilities).

Within the work environment – do some have to work a second job in the evenings? Perhaps look at how you can give them more responsibility within your company rather than them having to work through the night elsewhere. Encourage your “employees to remind themselves of their achievements and recent ‘wins’ so they “can put [their] feelings of self-doubt into context” (here).

Please keep things simple – not because you do not believe in your employees capabilities, but because you do not want some to slip through the gap created by not having the courage to say: “I do not understand, please explain.” Encourage your middle management and practice it yourself to translate difficult subjects into easy to understand points and messages. Those who truly understand their subject within your management team will find this easy, those who can’t will be shown up and then you know and can deal with that (sometimes the very core of what is a ‘bad manager’ is a lack of understanding within themselves). Difficult words and complex sentences may have a place in nuclear science, but in business one should be able to break down all that you do into simple processes and explanations.

Cut that management speak. No one cares that you got an MBA if you cannot lead… As they say, ‘Theory and Practice are exactly the same, except in practice…’ – just ask Liz Truss, now the UK’s ex-PM  (er, did we say that out loud?).

As Anne Elliot said in Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’: “Men have had every advantage of us in telling their own story . . . the pen has been in their hands.” The more we are aware of this, the more we can understand and improve the lives of our female employees. The better for us, for our employees, for our  communities and for the world.

Stay safe.

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Sewela Setshogoe, a South African growth-focused engineering entrepreneur — Lionesses of Africa

Lioness Weekender spoke to founder Sewela Basetsana Setshogoe about her early career start in the mining sector, the invaluable experience and knowledge she gained in her industry sector, and her ambitions and vision for the future.

What does your company do?

Our business specializes in engineering maintenance services and construction. We have also ventured into the asset reliability and optimization space.

What inspired you to start your company?

I was inspired to start my business by my engineering background on a personal capacity and the drive to create an organisation which provides quality engineering services in a male dominated industry.

Why should anyone use your service or product?

We take the time to form key relationships with our clients so that we can better serve their needs and are able to tailor-make products and services according to their specifications.

Tell us a little about your team

Our team is comprised of professionals with over 15 years of experience working within the engineering and mining sector. The management team is highly skilled and have civil engineering, electrical engineering, and project management qualifications. We are all dedicated to our craft and our team is more like a family.

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

I started my career working for a platinum mine in the North West Province where I was a part of the Women in Mining initiative in 2007, which was after I completed an Electrical Engineering qualification at Ekurhuleni West TVET college not far from home. I graduated with a Diploma in Electrical Engineering in 2011 and worked as an Artisan for both Impala Platinum and Samancor Chrome. During my working life, I had always known that I was meant to be an entrepreneur because I remember that I would sell a number of products for many years to my work mates and friends. I have ventured into a number of businesses which subsequently failed and I then decided to register an engineering company, Lefata Engineering Pty LTD in 2016. I went on to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management.

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

My future plans are to expand the business by acquiring expansion capital to fund construction machinery, increase workforce and get a large workshop where our steel fabrication work can be done. I am also passionate about youth and entrepreneurship development, I always ensure I use my limited resources to help unemployed youth gain experience in the industry and I motivate and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners, this is the work I will continue to do but on a large scale in the future.

What gives you the most satisfaction being an entrepreneur?

What is satisfying is the opportunity to make a positive impact in society as well as adding value to the South African economy. I also enjoy the freedom to be creative and determine my own value as an individual.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to other women looking to start-up?

My biggest advice is to just get started and learn as you go. There are many opportunities out there, we just need to get over the fear and get to work.

To find out more about Lefata Engineering and its service offerings, and to contact founder Sewela Setshogoe directly, send an email to: or visit the company website and social media platforms:


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Doreen Michelo, a Zambian agripreneur addressing food security through affordable locally grown farm produce — Lionesses of Africa

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

My journey is one with many stories – stories of struggle, determination, challenges and success. Starting up anything is never an easy feat, but you have to start anyway and that is what I did. I had always been interested in farming and food production. We come from areas where land is a major resource, but which is not being utilized to benefit the community in the way it should. I started this journey knowing the reason was due to lack of access to resources to derive benefit from the land, so with what I had I bought my first piece of land in 2017 and never looked back. We started with growing seasonal rain crops such as maize, sunflower and groundnuts, to later venturing into poultry, and now garden crops such as cabbage, onions, okra and tomatoes. I do not come from an entrepreneurial background, the majority of people in my family are employed.

What are your future plans and aspirations for your company?

Our future plans and aspirations include:
1. Improve the conditions of service/pay for my workers
2. Start packaging our chicken and supply branded products to supermarkets
3. Value addition (preservation of tomatoes)
5. Maintain a constant supply of the various products we produce
6. Become an established skills training centre to support youths and young women in skills development and help them start up in business.

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Adérójú Ope-Ajayi, a Nigerian entrepreneur with a passion for fostering positive change in the sports industry — Lionesses of Africa

Why should anyone use your service or product?

Our business is special in the fact that we cater to a specific niche and we are the first of its kind in Nigeria. We are a specialized team of female instructors that are in the business of teaching women and children how to be water safer. We also use a specialized swim lesson curriculum specific for teaching women and children. This also differentiates us in the market among other male-led swimming schools. Our affiliations with international swim associations also gave us a winning edge.

Tell us a little about your team

We are a very special group of swim instructors and administrators as we are all female, with just one male among us. The team is headed by Ms. Sopulu who is our Head of School and Business Manager. She is ably supported by Ms. Racheal and her team of Administrators. The Instructors are managed by the Lead Instructor and these instructors consist of Certified Instructors and Trainee Instructors. The Trainee Instructors are ladies who have an interest in being water safety instructors and are being trained for free and who in turn work with the company for 3 years. This has enabled us to pass on the skills more efficiently and train more female instructors quickly.

Share a little about your entrepreneurial journey. And do you come from an entrepreneurial background?

My entrepreneurial journey started as a means to an end really. I had resigned from my job as Head Of Sales in a Telco and while waiting for another job, I decided to start this business, after so much pressure from family and friends who wanted to learn how to swim ONLY from a female instructor. I haven’t looked back since then.
I didn’t come from an entrepreneurial background at all, I was a fully corporate focused lady and wanted to grow in my career as a Sales, Business Strategy & Development expert.

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My ABC of Business – 10 Things I learnt after 10 months in our first retail shop — Lionesses of Africa

by Lizl Naude

Having a retail space is a huge responsibility and not one I thought I would get so soon. But in October 2021, I was offered a great deal on a small space, and I decided to take the leap of faith and open up shop! I was both terrified and excited at the same time! After a few weeks of renovation, we officially opened on 19 November 2021.

A few weeks ago, after about 10 months in the space, my landlords and I had a conversation, and both agreed that the space wasn’t conducive any longer. It was hidden and out of sight for clients. This resulted in slow sales. Once again, I experienced mixed feelings. I was relieved and sad concurrently. But I had to put on my big girl shoes, and make a business decision.  As we were clearing out the room, I was overwhelmed with gratitude and emotion. I thought of all the people I met and lessons I learned.

Here are 10 lessons I learnt:

  1. It’s ok to make mistakes. I have made so many these past 10 months, but I have also learnt a myriad of valuable lessons that will benefit us in the bigger scheme! I will be able to apply these when we are ready to open a bigger place in the future.

  2. Use what you have. Even if your space is not perfect, do your best with what you have. I didn’t have a big budget to start off with, so I had to be creative in setting up.

  3. People are bombarded by products and services daily. Be clever and creative in getting feet into your store. Offer freebies and discount vouchers. Ask customers to spread the word on your behalf.

  4. Ask for help. I called on so many of my family members and friends to assist, and they helped me gladly! I am forever indebted to them!

  5. Tell your story. Use ways to tell your story in a visual way, this will assist new-comers to understand your back story and brand.

  6. Be there. Even if you’re a mogul or your business is expanding rapidly, try to physically be in your store as much as you can. People appreciate the one on one contact with business owners. It also gives you time to connect and build valuable relationships.

  7. Listen. To your staff and to your clients. Hear what they have to say.

  8. Don’t just focus on making sales. Have fun! Have conversations, and be open to meeting new people!

  9. Be grateful that you have an opportunity to have a shop/showroom. Many businesses had to close doors during the pandemic.

  10. Even though we had the physical store, I still kept and ran the on-line store. To cut down on overheads, as far as you can, continue to push your online sales.

It’s not all doom and gloom, we still have shelf space at the same location, which is Paarl Nursery, in Paarl. Our products are now available on the main shop floor and we continue to have a physical presence on site. If you are ever in the area, do pop around and come say hi! Maybe I will buy you a coffee! Thank you to all who have supported our journey thus far. Thanks for all the purchases, pop-ins and well wishes. We appreciate you all!

Find us at Wild Emporium at Paarl Nursery, R45, Simondium Road, Paarl, 7646

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